Grade the Trade: Cavaliers buy at deadline, adding Hawks forward in proposal

Atlanta Hawks v Philadelphia 76ers
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Should the Cavaliers say yes?

De'Andre Hunter theoretically fits the mold for the Cavaliers. He is a tall, athletic shooter who should be able to hold his own defensively. If that is the case, then he is probably what the Cavs need enough to part ways with LeVert and Wade. Porter has stepped up as a bench producer, and Okoro has elevated offensively while retaining his defensive prowess. Size off the bench and reliable shooting are still the biggest weaknesses for the Cavs, though, and Hunter should fix that.

Cleveland's front office is a group of smart strategists, and if they are targeting Hunter, they would not agree to any deal without considering the damage of what they give up. If LeVert is viewed as invaluable this year, the Cavs could conceivably build a separate deal around a two-for-one of Isaac Okoro's $8.9 million and Georges Niang's $8.8 million salaries. This would put them just over two million below Hunter's deal. Losing their best perimeter defender and a veteran shooting big might be even worse than losing LeVert, though.

If the Cavs can strike the right balance, then Hunter is a good option as a seventh or eighth man in their postseason rotation. At 6-foot 8-inches, he can play either the three or the four, and the gravity of Garland and Mitchell would give Hunter an assortment of open attempts and open lanes to the basket.

The issue of whether or not Hunter actually improves the Cavs remains. The idea of Hunter is an ideal fit, but his subpar defense over his career could spell some concerns. Hunter has only earned a positive Defensive Plus-Minus once in his five-year career. Conversely, the Hawks have never built a defense-first system. No matter how great their offense is, their focus on defense has always lacked.

Before the NBA, Hunter played for the University of Virginia Cavaliers (coincidence?) for two seasons. In the 2018-19 season, Hunter started all 38 games, averaging 18.8 points with a 43.8 percent three-point shot. Over the regular season, the UVA Cavs had the league-best Points Allowed per Game at only 54.57. Hunter averaged 32.5 minutes per game that season, which suggests that he played a role in that stalwart defensive pressure. Collegiate accolades rarely translate one-to-one in the NBA, but it shows that Hunter can understand a defensive system. Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff is a defensive mastermind if nothing else. If there is a coach who can unlock Hunter's defense again, it would be Bickerstaff.

De'Andre Hunter trade grade. C. . . Final Mock Trade Grade

The Cavaliers would no doubt be taking a gamble in a Hunter exchange, but there is never a guaranteed win in an NBA trade. Given Hunter's pricetag and his uncertain defensive fit, though, it is impossible to say this deal would immediately improve the Cavaliers in any significant way. Conceptually, the best of De'Andre Hunter could be good enough even to push Strus out of the starting five. Unfortunately, the Cavs would have no way of knowing that he could be that in Cleveland.

In the end, the viability of a De'Andre Hunter trade relies heavily on the Cavs' perceive value of LeVert, Okoro, Niang, Wade and Strus. There is no feasible path to adding Hunter without losing at least two of that list. The Cleveland Cavaliers are primed to upgrade this deadline, but Hunter might not be the right choice.

Next. Grade the Trade: Cavs bring Golden State star home in proposal. Grade the Trade: Cavs bring Golden State star home in proposal. dark